The town of Elizabethtown, Kentucky, was the birthplace of Colonel Harland Sanders, the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC).
Bell County, Kentucky is located in the southeastern part of the state. The area that now comprises Bell County was originally inhabited by Native American tribes such as the Cherokee and Shawnee. European settlers began arriving in the late 18th century, primarily from Virginia and Tennessee, and the county was officially established in 1867.

The early settlers subsisted mainly through agriculture and small-scale mining operations. The discovery of rich coal deposits in the region in the late 19th century brought about a significant change in the county's economy. Coal mining became the dominant industry, attracting thousands of workers to the area and leading to the rapid growth of towns such as Middlesboro and Pineville.

Bell County was not without its share of challenges. The county witnessed its fair share of labor unrest and strikes in the early 20th century, as mine owners clashed with workers over wages and working conditions. In 1902, Middlesboro was the site of a violent gun battle between mine workers and law enforcement known as the Battle of Middlesboro.

Throughout the 20th century, Bell County continued to be heavily reliant on the coal industry. However, the decline of coal mining in the latter half of the century led to a significant economic downturn. Today, the county is focused on diversifying its economy, exploring opportunities in tourism, agriculture, and manufacturing to revitalize the region.

Despite its challenges, the history of Bell County is a testament to the resilience and determination of its residents. From its early days as a small agricultural community to its role as a major coal mining hub, the county's history is deeply intertwined with the hardships and triumphs faced by its people.

This timeline provides a glimpse into the major events and milestones that have shaped the history of Bell County, Kentucky.

  • 1794 - Bell County is formed from parts of neighboring Harlan and Knox counties.
  • 1806 - The first permanent settlement, known as Yellow Creek, is established.
  • 1850 - The county's name is changed from Josh Bell to just Bell County.
  • 1861-1865 - Bell County residents actively participate in the American Civil War.
  • 1902 - The Louisville and Nashville Railroad reaches Middlesboro, leading to significant industrial growth.
  • 1919 - The city of Pineville becomes the county seat.
  • 1926 - Cumberland Gap National Historical Park is established, preserving an important passageway through the Appalachian Mountains.
  • 1957 - The completion of the Cumberland Gap Tunnel provides a new transportation route through the region.
  • 1986 - The Bell County Coal Corporation's No. 1 Mine explosion kills ten miners.
  • 2006 - Bell County celebrates its bicentennial anniversary.